Currently conducted at all three of Brentwood’s middle schools, the PAL After the Bell program provided a place for about 150 children to go after school and do homework, play games and simply not be alone and at risk of engaging in, or being victims of, crime.
In the past, the city has provided support for the program through the Parks and Rec Department. By holding fundraisers and getting grants, PAL has reimbursed to the city about $50,000 of the program’s $250,000 annual cost.
Unfortunately, grant money is much harder to come by these days and communities with higher crime rates have edged out Brentwood’s PAL in getting cash assistance. (Ironically, if Brentwood’s crime rate were higher – as might have been the case had PAL not existed – Brentwood might have a better shot at grant funding.) There is likely no money forthcoming from PAL this year.
As PAL’s reimbursement to the city has diminished and the city’s own coffers have been increasingly strained, the council this week made the hard decision to discontinue funding for After the Bell, and the program will end Feb. 1.
PAL has been an integral part of the city’s emphasis on youth for more than a decade, and it’s important for residents to know that despite the loss of After the Bell, it will continue to be in the future. Numerous activities, from wrestling and skateboard tournaments to martial arts and golf instruction, are either in existence or on the horizon. The expanding list of activities will help PAL continue its primary goal of breaking down barriers between at-risk kids and police officers.
There are several ways members of the public can support this important group. First, they can make a direct donation. Second, they can attend fundraisers benefiting PAL, such as the Brentwood Barbecue King Cook-off on Feb. 1 at Harvest Park Bowl. Third, they can enroll their children in PAL programs such as a wrestling tournament set for Feb. 22.
While not specifically fundraisers, increased participation in PAL activities makes them more affordable and broadens the program’s reach.
It’s hoped that eventually the city will be able to restore funding for after-school programming, but until that can happen, PAL represents an important asset for our youth, one we can all support simply by participating in. We encourage everyone to do so, and in the process help improve the community in which we live.
To learn more about PAL or its activities, contact Officer Roger Wilson at 925-634-6911. For tickets to the Barbecue King Cook-off, call 925-634-1441.